It’s been over two decades since the Lions last came out as the triumphant side from one of their tours, but heading into the second test match against Australia with one win in the bag, the confidence is quite high at the British & Irish camp.
It took a Kurtley Beale slip to ensure the Lions came away with a 23-21 win in Brisbane to take a 1-0 lead in the series, killing the worries that their 14-12 loss to the Brumbies a few days earlier was a bad omen for the rest of the way.
Heading into Melbourne, Australia are forced to make two changes, as Berrick Barnes and Digby Ioane won’t be able to play due to injuries, promoting Kurtley Beale and Joe Tomane to the lineup, with Tomane having only his second cap for the Wallabies.
Centre Christian Lealiifano will be in the lineup despite the head knock that sidelined him during the opening moments in the first test, while James O’Connor, who did quite terribly as the no. 10 in Brisbane, will get another opportunity to show there more to him than that performance, despite all of the criticism. Rob Horne and uncapped fullback Jesse Mogg have both been added to the bench.
For the Lions, plenty of changes are on the way: Five Warren Gatland is making, expecting a much more physical and ‘ugly’ match this time around, not to mention the injuries to Paul O’Connell and Alex Corbisiero.
Instead of them, Geoff Parling will take O’Connell’s place in the second row while Mako Vunipola will play as the loose-head prop. Dan Lydiate will start as blindside flanker, while Ben Youngs (scrum half) and winger Tommy Bowe will find themselves in the lineup, as Tom Croft drops to the bench along with Alex Cuthbert, as Mike Phillips drops out of the squad, replaced on the bench by Conor Murray.
A lot of eyes will be on Kurley Beale to try and put that tragic slip behind him, but the Lions have the better side, and more is riding on their performance. If George North turns in another impressive night, while Dan Lydiate brings in his best tackling in another key factor for the Lions.
Predictions – The first one was too close to call, and the second one is another toss up, but will probably be a lot more physical with less moments of flash. Lions have better tools and skill set to handle that kind of match, and will claim the series victory before reaching Sydney.